Water, water, everywhere?

We need to have a discussion guided by the writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  He’s the “old dead dude” who wrote in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner our theme for this morning:

“Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”


What we ought to talk about is water – and the conspiracy to make it unaffordable at some point in the not-too-distant future.

So this buddy of mine (who’s a medical sort) has wisely followed the path from the cut-throat big city conformal-coated media masses and has a dandy home in an up-and-coming semi-rural area in south-central Washington State.

Here’s his concern:


I came across a story for you. Okay, it jumped me when I wasn’t looking.

Back six years ago when I bought 15 acres near Goldendale, (Washington) wells were being drilled for $12-15 per foot. But my wife wasn’t excited about spending that money. When she relented over a year ago, we accepted a bid at $25/foot. We’re still waiting for the man to drill it. He’s not sure, but will try to get to it this year.

One of the other bidders, when I called him, said he has a backlog of 56 people at $36/foot. That is 3-4 years wait. The other bidder locally is booked for this season at $50-55/foot.

I called Portland/Vancouver drillers – too busy to work out their immediate area. I called Yakima drillers – same thing. I called Tri-city radioactive drillers – things are too hot for them already. 

How extensive is this well drilling shortage? Is it a nationally widespread phenomenon? What caused it? How does it affect property values? How does it affect people who want to escape to the sticks? “

Yessir, John has nailed it.  The problem is water is likely to become one of those “freedoms” that by the time Millennials are 50, they will only be able to look back and see (through the rearview mirror of time) how this most precious of freedoms disappeared.

I don’t know as I mention our “second Other” website often enough.  I’m sure you know where www.peoplenomics.com is – and that it focuses on making a buck (and except for a few wild hare trades in my hot money account) we do extremely well there.

But we have this other site – trademarked name and more – called www.ruralpioneer.com where you can find (among other things) articles written by Oilman2 and some of Elaine’s writings from years back.

Which has what to do with water?

Well, in a 2004 piece, Elaine was seriously questioning whether more people should be moving to the Denver area.  Just like the Goldendale area of Washington state, great place, but they have serious water issues.

Here’s what Elaine wrote about the history of the water wars back in 2004 – and this is worth knowing because it sets the stage for the kind of regulatory hijacking of landowner rights that is underway right now:

“Be prepared to invest in water.  In Colorado, water rights are property that can be bought, sold, or inherited. To understand the impact of this statement, let’s take a peek into Colorado’s history.

Many people taking a stab in striking it rich in Colorado in the 1840’s, were people that had turned to Colorado after the gold rush in California.  These early settlers brought with them the ideas used in California to settle arguments over land and eventually water.

Miner’s Courts were established as they were in California.  The theory behind the court system was if you were on the land first, it was your land or claim, and those following had no right to it. (Thus, first in time, first in right). The system was eventually transferred to water ownership disputes.  The first to use the water that was needed owns that amount of water, and the second one there gets what is left, if any.

With very little water available from rainfall, only 15 – 17 inches statewide, the snowmelt provides 80%, water had to be used directly from stream systems.  If the only persons allowed using such water were those next to the stream, very little land could be utilized for agricultural development.

However, economic conditions in the east eventually lead to a foreseeable profit in the growing of cash crops, if only more acreage could be developed.  Developers stepped in and began colonies to foster such acreage production.  These companies built canals from the mainstreams and gave a share of the water to farmers for irrigating acreage.

Using the concept the environment had to be taken into consideration when establishing any water allocation system, Colorado created the prior appropriation doctrine.  This legal system is peculiar to the western United States in response to the west’s inconvenient-scarce water resources.

The basic tenant of the Colorado appropriation system to be remembered is “first in time, first in right “. The “senior” or first person to appropriate water and apply that water to a beneficial use has the first right to use that water within a particular stream system.  The “senior” must then be satisfied before any other “junior” rights are fulfilled.

A drought during the 1800’s caused a war, the Water Wars of 1874, which eventually resulted in Article XVI of the Colorado Constitution enacted in 1876.

The Colorado Constitution recognize the “Water of every natural stream . . . is hereby declared to be the property of the public . . .” The Constitution and the

Courts recognize water rights are a right to use water, so long as water is put to a recognized beneficial use and water is available.  Anyone may go to water court and get a decreed right to use water.

In 1878 Major John Powell, in a federal report, warned of the need for careful development in the American southwest due to limited water supply.

In 1902 President Teddy Roosevelt whose view, water was “wasted” in the west (not put to good use) signed the Reclamation Act.  This Act created the Bureau of Reclamation whose goal was to subsidize irrigation to farmers and stimulate economic and population growth.

The very earliest transbasin diversions of water were for agricultural purposes, but water for municipalities followed soon thereafter.

When water is moved from one basin to another, courts may apply restrictive conditions.  For example, Denver may not use water for uses outside areas socially and economically integrated into the city, and is limited to municipal uses.”

And now we can zip forward to present day.

Anyone who is smart (which includes all of our readers and John in particular) will have their antennae up for the “next big government grab.”

We can name at least two that are in plain sight:  One is the government’s asserting that IT ALONE has the right to allocate water.  That’s why, when we moved to Texas, the first thing we did was to recover an old well and get it back into minimal production, as well as drill an additional well (before regulators when crazy) and then we decided that as part of our wildly overdone prepping efforts, we would also hang on to our old Hydro-Drill well drilling rig.

They are still being made today.  We bought ours used for $600 and the new rigs today are going for a LOT more.

You can find Hydra-Drill information on a unit like ours (good for 200+ feet) over here.  And some of their tower-type units will do 300+_feet.  (Like this one).

The main thing that I found a drawback when we were recovering our well was that the Hydra-Drill didn’t have an Oilman2 engineered bit on it.  They used (at the time) a simple spade bit.  Picture a flat-head screw driver with carbide edges on it.

Here’s a short video on what the process looks like:  You will need a Hydra-Drill and a 3-5 HP waste water pump.  This shoves drilling water down the drill pipe.  At the bottom, the return (up pressure) brings the cut material up…so you need to dig about a 500 gallon waste water pit which can be filled back in after the drilling.

Piece of cake, right?

In Washington State, it is. They have a well-drilling exemption for small wells:

The only exceptions to the permit requirement is for withdrawals of groundwater for:

  • Providing water for livestock (no gallon per day limit).
  • Watering a non-commercial lawn or garden one-half acre in size or less (no gallon per day limit, however limited to reasonable use).
  • Providing water for a single home or groups of homes (limited to 5,000 gallons per day).
  • Providing water for industrial purposes, including irrigation (limited to 5,000 gallons per day but no acre limit).

In the other hand, in other states the noose is slowly tightening.  Take Oregon, for example:

“The 2009 Legislature passed  Senate Bill 788 which introduced new requirements when completing a well for exempt use.  There is now a requirement to submit a map and submit a $300.00 per well recording fee.”

In  Texas, the Groundwater Protection Committee website admits “Private wells do not serve public water supply systems and are largely unregulated. For domestic water well owners there are no federal or state requirements for monitoring drinking water quality as there are for public water supply systems…”  So we are good – for now – as we are likely to put in two or three more wells.

At least one of our planned wells down here (at the ranch) will be a special purpose well.  What I’m looking at is putting in a deep hole with 1″ or better copper and a circulating pump and then using circulating cold water (from down hole) to chill my office.

At the same time, since there is so darn much ham radio gear here, the down (and up) hole lines will constitute a Tesla-like extremely deep Earth ground so we can move on with transverse wave antenna experiments.

Unfortunately, for people in Colorado, well drilling gets incredibly complicated.  Just the online instructions for the permit application (here) will keep you busy for hours.  But then so will New Mexico which pointedly announces that “Anyone wanting to use water in New Mexico must have a permit from the State Engineer that can be obtained by contacting your local District Office.”

This is a lot of information…so at some point we need to pause and get on with the day.

So how about this for a summary:

We don’t see too many hurdles to John’s well question if a) he does it himself and b) if he can hit water reliably down 300 feet, or so.  A good guide here would be checking with neighbors to see how far down their wells had to sink before hitting good water.  If it’s less than 300 feet (like it is around here) no sweat.

But if there’s a lot of hard rock to be drilled, then commercial drillers and “getting on the schedule” may be the thing.

Drillers are usually busiest when the economy is booming and new homes are going into an area.  Perhaps waiting a few months – the PNW real estate market is halfway between bazitzu and nuts right now – and trying again would be a path.  Or, if shallow works, I know this major who is available for rent and is allegedly trainable.

Either way, though, we would lock up a working well sooner than later.  Like our installation of cogenerating solar, we view the money we have now – and will likely spend in the future on well drilling to be money well-spent.

The cost of operating your own well is likely on the order of half what the public rural water outfits will want.  But there’s a trade off in testing, repairs, and ongoing testing to be done.

But trust me, we feel the pain.  And we reckon that the same forces that are trying to stampede the world into a global climate tax will then lead a charge to capture private water production and they’ll wrap it up as necessary “for the public good.”

Good, that is, to them’s on the top, not the rest of us’n’s down the food chain.

But you-know-what always rolls down hill, then, yeah?

Write when you get rich,